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The dopamine receptor D1 gene and ADHD: A piece of the genetic puzzle?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is recognized as the most prevalent mental health disorder of childhood, affecting about 3 to 5 percent of school-age children worldwide. The hallmarks of the disorder are age-inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. These problems often lead to underachievement in school and can have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships and on self-esteem. ADHD symptoms often persist into adolescence and adulthood, resulting in lifelong difficulties in academic, occupational, social and family functioning. In addition, there is evidence that ADHD may be a risk factor for other serious mental health problems and specific learning disabilities. All told, ADHD is a major public health issue.

Twin, family and adoption studies have produced strong evidence that ADHD is, in large part, genetically determined. Inheritance of the disorder is complex. Multiple genes, each of small to moderate effect, are likely to be involved. Although the neurobiological basis of ADHD remains to be fully understood, there is much evidence pointing to dysregulation of the dopamine neurotransmitter system as an underlying factor. Because of this, genes of the dopamine system are considered as candidates for involvement in the disorder. Genes that have been investigated are the ones encoding the five receptors in the brain, D1D5, through which dopamine acts. Such studies, to date, have found strong evidence for the involvement of two of these receptor genes, those encoding the D4 and D5 receptors, but little or no evidence for the involvement of either D2 or D3. Recently, the authors obtained evidence for involvement of the remaining member of this class of genes, the gene encoding dopamine receptor D1 (DRD1).

Combined evidence from a number of human and animal studies suggested DRD1 to be a particularly strong candidate for involvement in susceptibility to ADHD. To test this, the authors i
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Contact: Aimee Midei
molecularpsychiatry@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-6739
Molecular Psychiatry
3-Dec-2003


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